Sunday, May 13, 2018

A Black Dialogue on the Black Arts Movement and Hip Hop

Marvin X and his student Dr. J. Vern Cromartie
photo Gene Hazzar

Sun, May 6, 2018 at 9:33 AM, J Vern Cromartie
Hello Marvin,
Attached, you will find the special issue of Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies
which includes my article titled "Black Social Movements Past and Present:
A Comparative Analysis of the Black Arts Movement and the Hip Hop Movement."  
I presented the paper at the 2014 Black Arts Conference at UC Merced.
I look forward to your response.
Yours in solidarity,
Reply by Marvin X
Subject: Re: My Paper on the Black Arts Movement and the Hip Hop Movement
I read your section on BAM and see you still have a problem with BAM language although
you only mentioned BPP language as per Cleaver. BPP language, BLk Studies language and
BAM language are not the same. BAM didn't deal with the church as did the BPP. And we
definitely didn't submit to academic censorship, which is partly why I dropped out of SFSU
after the Drama Department did Flowers but wanted to tone it down! That was the motivation
to start Black Arts West Theatre.
You mention name changes but what did name changes represent as per consciousness and
You mentioned Kwanzaa originating in LA, but your research should tell you it came out of
Oakland's Afro American Association. See Ed Howard. Karenga was LA rep of AAA.
Will check out your section on Hip Hop and get back to you. You put a lot of research in
your paper so I applaud you.
You, Kim and others want to limit my work to the West coast as though I did not work in
Harlem, 1968-69, along with the East  Coast BAM family or did not spend time in Chicago
with BAM Chicago, 1968. One of my duties as Associate editor of the New Lafayette
Theatre's Black Theatre Magazine was distribution to all the black colleges Also, as per
the West coast, you did not mention my Black Educational Theatre, 1972, Fillmore, and
my work with Sun Ra at BET, especially the Harding Theatre five hour, no intermission,
production of Take Care of Business.
On Sun, May 13, 2018 at 4:31 AM, Kim McMillon wrote:
Dear Marvin,
Please know I have no wish to limit anyone's work, scholarship or brilliance.  
As many times as you have spoken to my classes, uncensored, please know I have
no desire to limit your work to any region or area of study with regards to the
Black Arts Movement. I consider you an international scholar of the Black Arts Movement.
Vern put a great deal of work into a wonderful essay on the Movement.  We are all telling
our stories, giving our research on a Movement that will one day be written about in history
books because of people insisting that our stories, our history and the beauty of our Blackness
be told. The Black Arts Movement similar to our very Blackness is without limits.
From: Marvin X Jackmon
To: Kim McMillon
Sent: Sunday, May 13, 2018 7:29 AM
Kim, what is the title of the section with my name on it in the journal? What were the negative comments about my use of language at UC Merced BAM Conference? What were the concerns as per language at the BAM South Conf which is one reason I didn't attend. Negroes are conservative simply because we are not free. Age enforces conservatism even with so-called radical blacks, including ancestor AB (I will save my comments about his psycholinguistic crisis for my paper on him). But BAM taught Hip Hop how to say motherfucka then condemned them for saying it which is hypocritical to say the least and is best expressed in the moral hypocrisy of Bill Cosby and other culture police.
Congratulations on your PhD, hapi b day and Mother's Day. Thanks for catching the BAM baton and
moving forward. Love you and appreciate you.

On Sun, May 13, 2018 at 7:43 AM, Kim McMillon  wrote:
Dear Marvin,
I love and appreciate you also.  African Americans continually look back at our ancestors seeking
ways to heal ourselves and our history.  We compete in academia with people of all races that seek
to judge us and our history. Often teaching our history in ways that are painful.   So much of what
we do is censor ourselves because of our fears. For many, one wrong move or indiscretion,
particularly before you receive tenure, and you are fired.  I have only worked as an adjunct, but
I see the ill-treatment of academics of color. Each person has to decide what is right and best for them. I cannot judge. Often, as a race we censor ourselves.  Perhaps your voice is so important because you have chosen not to censor your words.
Your voice has made a difference in my scholarship.   Thank you. Peace, and Love, Kim
On Sunday, May 13, 2018, 10:01:14 AM PDT, Eric Arnold  wrote:

i can't speak to the omissions Marvin is pointing out, but the section of hip-hop misses the point
by quite a few miles.
first, it completely ignores the seminal influence of BAM on the early development of what would
become known as hip-hop culture.
It makes the mistake of positing that hip-hop culture developed in a vacuum in the Bronx, with no
outside influences. That is entirely incorrect.
In actuality, the ideological, iconographical, and stylistic elements of hip-hop, which began in the
mid-60s and continued throughout the 70s and 80s, were highly informed by BAM and associated
concurrent movements.
The modern graffiti movement emerged in 1967, the same year that the community mural movement
was established in Chicago, a center for BAM, and was directly influenced by BAM ideology.
The political and social consciousness of the Zulu Nation was directly informed by the Black
Panthers, Sun Ra, and Sly Stone.
Yet the influence of the Bay Area of what became hip-hop culture is completely overlooked.
Instead, the writer continues to spread the Bronx Creation Myth as an accepted narrative, without
ever mentioning the Black Panthers opened up an Information Center in Bronx River in 1968 which
was visited by a young Bambaataa, before he even took that name. Bambaataa's given name in the
article is also incorrectly listed.
There is no mention whatsoever of the influence BAM had on the Afrocentric spoken word movement
which was foundational to the development of the hip-hop emcee. The Last Poets were directly
influenced by BAM. Yet this is not mentioned.
The references to hip-hop are piecemeal and far from comprehensive or thorough. They reflect an
academic perspective from the outside looking in, which has little understanding or knowledge of
how hip-hop actually developed.
This is because the author does no original research, and limits his findings to repeating or
paraphrasing what others have written.
Unfortunately, this approach results in many factual errors, and is also somewhat self-serving,
in that it exists for the purpose of propping up academia, rather than understanding that hip-hop
was in part created because of the inherent limitations of universities and the inability to these
institutions to relate to street-level social and cultural movements. Hip-hop in the late 80s and early
90s, for example, existed as an alternative source of information to the university system and the
failure of public education to overcome cultural bias--as referenced by KRS-One in "Yoiu Must Learn." Public Enemy in "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," and Poor Righteous Teachers on "Self-Styled Wisdom." And then later by dead prez on "They Schools."
The article posits that hip-hop has never been a threat to Wall Street, and that record companies
never promoted consciousness, which is categorically untrue. In fact, in 1988-92, conscious rap far
outsold gangsta rap. Recently, Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize, becoming the first pop music
artist to do so. Yet this continuum is completely unexamined.
It is also unclear why there is not a single reference to Tupac Shakur who was a prime example of
the generational legacy of both BAM and the Black Panther Party. This is simply unconscionable.
Tupac began his artistic career as a theater student and poet before becoming a rapper, and his family
were members of the New York BPP chapter.
In my own research, some of which was integral to the Oakland Museum of California's current
hip-hop exhibit which I was a co-curator of, I didn't just look at what academics unconnected to the
culture had to say about it. I didn't begin the historical timeline I created in 1973, but in 1965. One
big reason for that was that year was the year BAM was founded.
So, while on a superficial level, this paper appears to connect many dots, in actuality there are many
more unconnected points.
I agree with Marvin that hip-hop culture is part of the legacy of BAM. But it will take more than
window-gazing to clearly and definitively unpack this.
Regretfully, articles like this may be well-intentioned, but ultimately do the cultures they are
attempting to define a disservice by getting so many things wrong and presenting while presenting
themselves as authoritative. This problem has been evident since the 90s, when the first academic
papers and books on hip-hop were published. While there are some scholars who write credibly
about the culture and come from hip-hop backgrounds, Cromartie is clearly not one of them.
In the future, if you are going to attempt to present Black history anywhere, please make sure you
get it right. Disinformation = miseducation.
Eric Arnold

Kim McMillon 
To:Eric Arnold

May 13 at 12:00 PM

Dr. Itibari Zulu offered us the platform on which to explore the Black Arts Movement.  Much like life, there are hundreds of ways to view the same material.  One of the wonderful things about research and scholarship is its fluidity.  I invite anyone that has an opinion about this special edition to write an article discussing your research and submit it to Dr. Zulu.  We create new scholarship by researching and being in conversation with each other.  However, whether you agree or disagree, kindness is so important.  As African Americans, we are continually barraged by a world  that does not always understand our beauty and Blackness.  Let us be kind to each other.  We can disagree over new research, but each of us has important work to add to this conversation.  Vern, thank you for your important work.

Kim McMillon

On Sun, May 13, 2018 at 11:30 AM, J Vern Cromartie wrote:
Hello Eric,

Thank you for expressing your opinion.  With all due respect, I hope that you took the time to
read the footnotes as well as the main text.  Many of the statements you made are simply not true.
My basic position is that Hip Hop is not a culture.  It is a social movement. Perhaps, you simply
do not know what is a social movement. If you think that Hip Hop is a culture, perhaps you do not
know what is a culture. My Gullah culture is a culture.  Mona Lisa Saloy's Creole culture is a culture.
Each culture can be broken down into ideas (e.g., values), norms, and material culture. Gullah culture
and Creole culture can meet that challenge, but not Hip Hop. Further, Kendrick Lamar's getting a
Pulitzer Prize is like Halle Berry getting an Oscar for the film Monster's Ball.  By the way, the Black
Arts Movement actually started before 1965. As I said on pages 89-90, "The Black Arts Movement
emerged in 1964 with beachfronts in two locations: the New York area and the San Francisco-Oakland
Bay Area."  The first issue of Soulbook was issued in 1964 rather 1965.  That is a fact, not an opinion
my brother.  Of course, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.
Yours in solidarity,
On May 13, 2018, at 12:38 PM, Eric Arnold wrote:
with all due respect, i call BS.
we can go point for point here.
< Many of the statements you made are simply not true.  >
You make this laughable assertion without even attempting to qualify it with examples. Therefore,
it lacks any credibility of proof.
<  My basic position is that Hip Hop is not a culture. >
This is factually-untrue, Actually poth premosterous and presumptuous. Hip hop as a culture has
been extremely well-documented, from the artistic elements (mentioned in the essay), tot he stylistic
elements, to its aesthetics. If this assertion were true,it would have been impossible for me to create a
historical timeline of the culture fopr a museum exhibit, or document the culture as i have done
professionally as a published journalist since 1992, because the culture would be non-existent. So, on
this basic point, you fail mightily. Furthermore, hip-hop is not only a black and brown-originated
American culture on a par with blues, jazz, and rock n roll, but it is a global culture which has taken
root in every continent of the world, with the exception of Antartica. this, too, is well-documented,
to the point that it is ridiculous to even attempt to debate otherwise.
< It is a social movement. >
There is no reason why hip-hop can't be a culture as well as a social movement as the two concepts
are not oppositional. In fact, they often go hand in hand and can be indistinguishable. Would anyone
in their right mind refer to the Harlem Renaissance or the Ragtime era as social movements without
also referencing their cultural aspects? Would anyone claim that the lifestyle and aesthetics centered
around jazz were strictly social phenomena and unconnected to culture? The weight of the ignorance
you project here onto hip-hop is simply hard to fathom.

Remember that we are talking about five decades of cultural evolution and development, which has
intersected with, been informed by, and influenced numerous social and political movements during
that span. Hip-hop is inherently sociocultural if not inherently sociopolitical, and has been that way
since before the culture even had a name. this is an aspect of a concept derived from BAM, that
cultural expression reflect the social sentiments of the time. If we go back to the earliest foundations
of hip-hop--black dance forms, funk music, graffiti--they are all cultural and social phenomena.
It is essentially impossible to argue that hip-hop DJing is not cultural, since it literally created its own
cultural practices, i.e., breakbeats, park jams, turntablism. Those are just a few examples, but there
are more. The cultural practice of emceeing or rapping is derived from the African American oral
tradition, which in no way was a purely social phenomenon. The intentional adoption of Afrocentric
imagery in the late 80s was a cultural practice. I could go on and on here. You are simply wrong from
a factual standpoint, regardless of your opinion.

< Perhaps, you simply do not know what is a social movement.   If you think that Hip Hop is a
culture, perhaps you do not know what is a culture.>
This is just pure arrogance. I have been researching and documenting hip-hop culture since I wrote
my thesis on it in college, in 1991. I am well-regarded as a pioneer of hip-hop journalism, as well as
a cultural historian. I have published numerous articles over the years examining both culture and
social movements, and interviewed many primary sources. I'm not going to run down my entire CV
here but you have no idea who i am or how deeply-ingrained i am in hip-hop culture, or what my
understanding is of social movements. Perhaps you shouldnt write about things you know nothing
< Each culture can be broken down into ideas (e.g., values), norms, and material culture.  >
The same holds true for hip-hop. It has aesthetics and unique practices, many of which have become
traditional at this point. It has regional, national, and even international aspects., and has influenced
mainstream popular culture in every place it has spread to. Perhaps you felt the need to lecture me,
as if i was an ignorant child. Unfortunately for you, that is not the case.

< Gullah culture and Creole culture can meet that challenge, but not Hip Hop.>
Once again, you fail to qualify your assertion, rendering it non-credible. This is simply an empty and
ego-driven statement with no basis in reality. It's really quite delusional. I've lived through every era
of hip-hop, so i can personally attest to its values, norms, and material aspects. I personally know
practitioners of every single element of hip-hop who uphold this criteria you define, which evidently
you are completely unaware of.  I think perhaps the broad appeal of hip-hop and its impact on
mainstream popular culture are beyond your comprehension as well. Which is why you reject
evidence and proof to the contrary of your point which is well-documented.
< Further, Kendrick Lamar's getting a Pulitzer Prize is like Halle Berry getting an Oscar for the
film Monster's Ball.  >
This is just dismissive and belittling of what in actuality is an unprecedented accomplishment. Is
shows a scorn and disdain for the artform of which K.Dot is an unquestioned master of, and speaks
to an implicit cultural bias which, by all rights, should disqualify you from even attempting to write
about hip-hop as a movement, culture, economic development strategy, ideological platform, or
form of popular entertainment. Your unmitigated gall here is largely reminiscent of the dismissing
of hip hop by white politicians in the late 80s and early 90s and shows a profound lack of
understanding of what hip-hop actually is. Ironically, I was just asked, as a hip-hop cultural expert,
to speak on the significance of Lamar's achievement by a major newspaper.
By the way, the Black Arts Movement actually started before 1965.>
Actually, you are also incorrect here. I attended the 50th anniversary celebration of BAM
which was produced by Marvin, a BAM co-founder, in 2015. Feel free to do the math yourself.
You are correct in naming the Soul Students Advisory Committee in 1964, but they didn't call
themselves part of the BAM, because that movement had not yet been named. We can also point to
things Ishmael Reed and others were doing as early as 1962 as things which led up to BAM but are
generally not considered an official part of its history, just as we can look at how Oakland boogaloo
evolved into hip-hop dance beginning in 1965-66, although hip-hop itself wasnt named until 1977
and didnt appear in print until 1981. We can note that the dance form known as b-boying evolved
out of NYC street gangs, and that the uprock preceded Kool Herc's first DJ party by at least a year.
Or we can look at the Revolutionary Action Movement, which had an Oakland chapter, preceded the
formation of the Black Panther Party, and had a similar ideology. we can also point to the Deacons of
Self Defense in Louisiana as a forebear to the Panthers. We can note that Seale and Newton both
organized out of the Anti Poverty Office in North Oakland in 1965. But we can't say the Panthers
started, as the Panthers, before October, 1966.
My point, to be clear, is that movements don't just spring out of thin air, and always have things
leading up to them. Hip hop culture is no different in this regard. In fact, the culture existed for as
much as fifteen years before it was even named as such.
Please make a more concerted effort in the future to get past your own confirmation bias and dont
hesitate to do original research.
Eric Arnold

On Sun, May 13, 2018 at 6:31 PM, Ayodele Nzinga wrote:
All behold the cultural slipstream a fluid continuum eating and regurgitating itself to feed its young.

Reply by Eric
dig it.
however, the notion that hip-hop is not a cultural movement is simply a dog which wont hunt. it is
refuted by any number of sources over a five-decade span.
even asking that question tends to define the asker rather than the culture itself.
i have been advised to worship at the hip-hop shrine.
i would just note that any shine i worship at will honor the ancestors and make space for future
peace to all -- even Vern
Marvin X at Oakland Museum of California's Respect Hip Hop Exhibit. BAM archives are in display
on left.
photo Adam Turner
From Norman Richmond, Toronto, Canada
To: Marvin X

Brother Marvin,
Let me add my two Canadian cents into this discussion. I was in Mount Morris Park aka Marcus Garvey Park  that day when Eldridge Cleaver spoke in 1968. I, like you,  was “Slippin’  into Darkness” (Underground, wanted by the FBI). Both of us shared time together in Toronto....

It was Mae Mallory NOT Fannie Lou Hamer that Papa Rage was talking about. He pointed out the role that she played in defense of Monroe, North Carolina’s Robert F. Williams. Here is Sister Mae’s story she is part of our international Black Radical Tradition and should never be forgotten.

On Sun, May 13, 2018 at 9:36 AM, J Vern Cromartie wrote:
Hello Marvin,

Thank you for your email.  With all due respect, my article did not focus solely on you.  I covered 
some of your activities, but not all.  I did the same thing with Amiri Baraka and others, including 
Dingane. My aim was to look at the Black Arts Movement as a social movement in comparison to 
the Hip Hop Movement as a social movement.  

As you know, I was a former student of yours at Laney College and took your theatre arts class 
during the early 1980s.  As a part of that class, I read many of your works  (plays, poetry, essays, 
interviews, etc.) and wrote my own play titled A Day in the Life of Hughes, Langston, which was 
staged at the College of Alameda and EGYPT Theatre during 1982.  I also wrote a review of your 
play In the Name of Love, which was staged at Laney College and directed by Dr. Ayodele Nzingha 
and starred Zahieb Mwongozi. The Grassroots newspaper in Berkeley published the review during 
1982.  In addition, the Clute Institute for Academic Research published my article on you titled 
"Teaching Black Studies at the University of California, Berkeley: The Case of Marvin X and the 
Afro-American Studies Program" during 2009  In the special issue of Africology: The Journal of 
Pan African Studiesthat you edited, you published a poem I wrote dedicated to you during 2010.  
Furthermore, I attended the Black Men's Conference at the Kaiser Center in Oakland which you 
organized a long time ago during 1980.  Thus, we go way back as we say in the Gullah territory. 

When Amiri Baraka died, you asked me for money so that you could buy a ticket to attend the 
funeral.  I gave you money in the form of a "C" note.  I did that out of brotherly love for you and 
respect for Amiri Baraka.  I could not go to the funeral so I felt good about helping you to go.  
Lastly, my article does acknowledge that you were active on the East Coast as well as the West 
Coast.  For example, I mentioned that you were in the audience in Harlem  when Eldridge Cleaver 
made a despicable remark in public to Fannie Lou Hamer.  Regarding that incident, I quoted you 
in your book Somethin' Proper.  Remember, you said that the Harlem speech of Eldridge Cleaver 
was "disgusting, degenerate" on page 172.  You said that, not me. 

Yes.  I have a W. E. B. Du Bois Lecture Series at Contra Costa College wherein I do not allow 
speakers to use profanity, racial slurs, and ethnic slurs.  I believe that students should have the 
right to come to an event and not  be insulted by profanity, racial slurs, and ethnic slurs.  I believe 
in academic freedom, but there is a limit to it and a responsibility that comes along with it.  Each 
speaker in the lecture series has to agree in a contract not to use profanity, racial slurs, and ethnic 
slurs. In the interest of civility, I stand by that position.  I tell all speakers that if you cannot say it 
in a mosque, temple, synagogue, or church, you cannot say it in the W. E. B. Du Bois Lecture 
Series at Contra Costa College.  There are cultural centers and community centers wherein one 
can go and use that language.  I say go there.  
Yours in solidarity,


Marvin  replies to J. Vern

At San Francisco's Glide Church, one can say motherfucka or anything. What is profanity in a profane, obscene world? As you recall, I turned down your $400.00 honorarium because of your Puritanism that I consider reactionary. Clearly you missed the critical point of BAM's freedom of speech and liberation esthetics in my class and productions. Do you recall my poem Tenured Niggas, "Muzzled mouth dogs, think nothing, do nothing, say nothing, makin' too much money to be a nigga...."

Yes, you mentioned me at Marcus Garvey Park when Cleaver spoke, and my comments were reactionary because I drank the Muslim Kool Aid. Again, check my name at the time, Marvin X. I was trying to be holier than thou, e.g., I rewrote Flowers as Take Care of Business, minus the profanity. Harlem treated me like a holy man except they couldn't deal with me as a member of the NOI in the land of Malcolm X, Harlem. In hindsight, I would do what Cleaver said about Fanny Lou Hamer. 

Sun Ra chided me, "Marvin, you so right you wrong." He was referring to the production of TCB in which I took out a sex scene. 

For sure, I am going to say what I want to say til my dying day, fuck money, fuck fame and popularity. Instead of saying motherfuck you, I will be nice and say lakum dinukum waliya din, I.e., to you your way and to me mine. 

Reply by J. Vern:

Hello Marvin,

All I can say to that is WOW!  

Yours in solidarity,


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